Author: Makayla Holstein
The Ladies Offroad Garage was truly a once in a lifetime experience. After participating in the 2016 Ladies Co-Driver Challenge Top 10 weekend, I knew that when Charlene called me and said, “I need you to trust me, because I have a different plan for the weekend,” that I was in for something awesome. Charlene is always full of surprises adding to the excitement around the events she puts on.
Once Charlene had collected Ann, Rileigh, and myself from the airport, it was off to dinner to meet with two of her inside ladies that help keep her sane. Stacy and Carol are part of Charlene’s inside team There were very few questions that were off limits to ask. Getting an inside look at Ladies Offroad Network and how it came about helped improve my appreciation for all that Charlene does for women in the offroad community.
The next day we were up and out the door on our way to the The Fab School. We started with a quick tour of the facility to help get a lay of the land and after a quick change into our shop gear we were ready to get our hands dirty. Our first project was to take a flat piece of aluminum and turn it into a bowl. Let me say way easier said than done. First, it’s all about layout then, once you have it laid, you have to cut it out, clean it up, grind it smooth, and then anneal the metal. The annealing process was really neat because with aluminum you can’t tell when it softens up it doesn’t glow like steel does. In order to find the close to melting point for aluminum, you need to put a thin layer of carbon over the sheet with the torch once that thin layer has been laid down you then use the torch to burn off the carbon which dissipates right around 500 degrees which is close to the melting point of aluminum.
Once the pieces cool, you can then start the process of asking the metal to make a bowl. You want to hammer the metal in a spiral shape working from the inside out. This will cause the metal to expand in the middle and contract on the outside. Once you have a basic bowl shape, you then move to the English wheel where you work to smooth out all the hammer strike marks. After your bowl is smooth it’s on to finish work, evening the edge and giving it that brushed aluminum finish. Yes, this may sound easy, but with blisters to prove it, it is far from easy.
After we finished our bowls, we then got to try our hand at TIG welding. TIG stands for Tungsten Inert Gas, which refers to the tungsten rods used in the welding torch. The girls rocked it right from the start. Ann, Trisha, and Rileigh seemed like old pros! I, however, needed some extra help, which our awesome instructors at the Fab School were more than happy to offer and, after some hands-on lessons, I was doing just as well as the rest of the group!
During one of our breaks at the Fab School we were able to ask some questions to the career services director. The Fab School alone has a list of over 530 different companies all asking for graduates. Of each of these companies some are looking for one employee but others are looking for 50+. The problem is that good employees are hard to find. A good set of skills are one thing but being a leader and a hard worker are not easy things to come by in an employee. Today’s generation tends to lean towards the Tech and I.T. fields as the way to go, but in reality those markets are being flooded without the job openings to fill them. The number of people willing to work with their hands is dropping as many skilled in the field are on the verge of retirement, creating a high demand for younger skilled workers. I think it is safe to say that anyone who is willing to learn with a positive attitude and work hard with their hands can have a successful career in the industry, including women who might think they don’t stand a chance at landing a career in the field because they are a woman. Insider tip: some of the best welders are women.
The next day started out bright and early as we all piled back into the BFGoodrich Tires K02 green Jeep, Frankie. We headed off to our first surprise tour of the day at Raceline Wheels. Meeting the wealth of knowledge Greg Mulkey was mind blowing. Greg proudly showed us around the Raceline Factory and took time to answer our many questions about the manufacturing process. When you buy a Raceline Wheel, every penny you pay has been hard earned by this company. Quality over quantity stands true at Raceline wheels.
After having some fun at the Raceline Wheels factory, it was back into the BFGoodrich Jeep to head to our next stop, which in true Ladies Offroad Network fashion, was a huge surprise. Jessi Combs, yes the Real Deal Jessi Combs, met us at her personal shop. After getting a shop tour and learning all about the cool relics she has collected over the years on her walls, we jumped right into learning how to MIG weld with Jessi. MIG stands for Metal Inert Gas. We learned all about how it should sound, how it should feel, and how to best tailor how we move the MIG the torch to fit ourselves.
Can you guess what we did next? Yup, back into the BFG Jeep and off to our next shop, Currie Enterprises. As one of the top leaders in the aftermarket axle world, Currie has truly made its name known in the off-road industry. Our tour guide just so happened to be John Currie. Have you ever heard of a fancy thing called a Johnny Joint? Yup, that John Currie was our guide through their shop. What was so interesting on this tour to me was the fact that less than half of Currie's business is off-road. They manufacture a large amount of industrial equipment axles and components. Currie Enterprises actually started off producing golf cart axles, until Yamaha released their first golf cart, cutting Currie’s production in half. With the lull in business John brought in the custom axle side of the company and production went back up again.
Next, we went to LGE-CTS Motorsports. The name may not ring a bell for you, but I bet if you have ever looked at different SEMA manufacturer built rigs, you have seen their work. Theresa Contreras, yes she is The Real Deal too, and her sister, Sara Morosan, are the owners of this fantastic shop. Sara is the light truck accessories side, and Theresa is the body repair and custom paint side. These two make one great team and were able to show us both sides of their business, even allowing us to try our hand at pinstriping.
One long day was followed by another as we followed Charlene out into the desert for some recovery training. Charlene is certified by the International 4-Wheel Drive Trainers’ Association, meaning that she has passed rigorous testing of skill and knowledge, proving that she is fit to teach others how to safely enjoy this great sport. We covered the basics, such as how to properly wear your gloves and shift a vehicle into 4-wheel drive all the way up to how to best angle our winch line, get the most pull out of our winch, and how to safely use a Hi-Lift jack. Charlene is a great instructor that anyone is lucky to learn from.
After almost dying in the 100 degree plus heat, we headed for AC at 4x4 sPod’s warehouse. Learning about the high level of quality they put into each product and the time and care they give each customer, sPod is one of those companies and products that may often be imitated but will never be duplicated.
After a shop tour and a chance to enjoy the AC, it was back outside to learn all about the Premier Power Welder. The Premier Power Welder is an on-board welding system that runs on an aftermarket alternator installed on your vehicle. The Premier Power Welder is designed to allow you to always have the ability to fix any broken metal parts on your vehicle or another, even when you're broken down in the middle of nowhere.
Our last day of the Ladies Offroad Garage was spent at the beach! Venice Beach, to be exact. We walked down the pier, watched some surfing, and caught a lift down to Muscle Beach where we ate lunch and proved that anything can happen on Facebook LIVE and that train wrecks bring in the views! If you need a good laugh you should really check out that live video.
I learned so much in the short time of the Ladies Offroad Garage, but I definitely learned to be proud of the fact that I am a Garage Girl and that I am not alone in being one. As Rileigh heads up the Ladies Offroad Network Garage Girls forum, I hope we can all come together and support each other knowing you aren’t alone in what you love to do. This event is one I will never forget and one that will never be duplicated.
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See all the action from the 2017 Ladies Offroad Garage!
Kick-Off Dinner - http://bit.ly/2uuUlXa
Day 1 - The FAB School 1: http://bit.ly/2v4r1GA
Day 1 - The FAB School 2: http://bit.ly/2v4rs3p
Day 1 - Photos: http://bit.ly/2sXGtYq
Day 2 - Raceline Wheels Shop Tour: http://bit.ly/2tGWQpe
Day 2 - Jessi Combs Shop Tour: http://bit.ly/2uaR1n1
Day 2 - Currie Enterprises Shop Tour: http://bit.ly/2sXGL1y
Day 2 - LGE-CTS Motorsports Shop Tour: http://bit.ly/2sXSWv3
Day 2 - Photos: http://bit.ly/2ub2fIw
Day 3 - Recovery: http://bit.ly/2tGN5r8
Day 3 - sPOD & Premier Power Welder: http://bit.ly/2sIH4cr
Day 3 - Photos: http://bit.ly/2uJz3Fg
Day 4 - Hollywood: http://bit.ly/2tH6F6S
Day 4 - Venice Beach: http://bit.ly/2t6kytf
Day 4 - Photos: http://bit.ly/2sICmeI
Full Coverage: ladiesoffroadgarage.com/event-coverage
Author: Makayla Holstein